Experiencing flight simulation on a VR headset is one of those things that once tried, you will never forget and be unable to go back to how things were before. The immersion and realism a VR headset provides make non-VR setups pale in comparison.
The good news is that VR headsets are much more affordable than they once were, giving more flight simulator enthusiasts than ever the opportunity to enjoy the experience.
There are only 3 VR headsets you should consider: HP Reverb G2, Valve Index, Oculus Quest 2.
While they may differ in image clarity, image resolution, Field of View, as well as in another couple of areas, they all manage to deliver the feeling you’re actually inside a cockpit better than any others.
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3 of the Best VR Headsets for Flight Simulator
Best Resolution: HP Reverb G2
With its unmmatched image resolution and clarity, the HP Reverb G2 delivers the most realistic flight sim experience.New: $509.00
If resolution and image clarity is the most important aspect to your flight sim enjoyment, the HP Reverb G2 is definitely the VR headset you should buy with its 2160 x 2160 LCD display.
I found it to be unmatched in this regard, and it really made a difference when reading gauges and for the overall visual experience.
Just take a look at the difference in clarity and resolution between the Reverb G2, Index, and Quest 2.
However, outside the center/sweet spot, the image can become slightly blurry.
The G2 has a 114-degree Field of View, which many wearers should get along fine with, but it pales in comparison to the Valve Index’s 130-degree FOV.
Due to the G2’s unmatched clarity, hook up any pilot to the G2 and your flight sim of choice – and it’s likely that they will say that it provides a very similar experience to flying a real plane.
Best Field of View: Valve Index
The Valve Index has a huge, immersive FOV that really adds to the realism. It is also your best choice if you want to do more than just play Flight Simulator.New: $1,350.00
The Valve Index has many things going for it, including the best tracking and controllers of any VR headset, as well as impressive resolution and image clarity.
But it’s the headset’s Field of View that really makes it shine for flight sims. Its 130 degrees FOV is massive and definitely added to the immersion and realism.
Compared to the HP Reverb G2, the Valve Index had lower resolution and image clarity, but it was more uniform across the entire field of view. It’s therefore hard to argue that one headset is better than the other, as it depends on whether image clarity or FOV is more important to you.
To sum up the difference between the two as simply as possible, if you prefer flying small GA planes with mechanical gauges and mostly pilot when looking outside, go for the Index.
If you prefer to fly airliners with lots of glass displays and inevitably won’t have much to view outside the cockpit due to flying at higher altitudes, go for the G2.
Another thing to consider is that the Index is the more expensive of the two, and would be the better choice if you want a VR headset for more than just flight sims due to its superior tracking and controllers.
Budget Pick: Oculus Quest 2
The Oculus Quest 2 is your best option if you're on a budget. Its standalone design can be a real plus for some shoppers.New: $349.00
The Oculus Quest 2 may not be able to match the resolution and clarity of the G2 or Index, but it’s the best option if you’re looking to spend less.
With the Quest 2, I wasn’t able to clearly see and read everything on the instrument panel without leaning in, especially compared to the G2 and Index, but I can confidently say that the experience beats the alternative of using a non-VR setup.
The Quest 2 is a good stop-gap option if you just can’t wait any longer to see what all the fuss of flight simulation in VR is all about while you save up for the more expensive G2 or Index which both offer a more realistic and immersive experience.
Keep in mind that you will need to buy the Oculus Link Cable to attach the Quest 2 to your PC. You also need a Facebook account to use it, which understandably makes the Quest 2 a no-go for some people.
How I Picked the Best VR Headsets for Flight Simulator
- Field of View
There’s no doubt that the wider the field of view, the more immersive the experience, especially when it comes to flight simulators.
Unfortunately, a VR headset that has a very wide field of view while managing to maintain excellent image clarity and resolution across the entire field does not yet exist. So think about whether immersion or image quality is more important, as well as the type of aircraft you want to pilot.
IPD stands for Interpupillary Distance, which is the distance between your pupils. Each headset features IPD adjustment in an attempt for you to get the best viewing experience possible, though they differ in how much the distance can be adjusted.
The Valve Index has the widest IPD range (58mm-70mm), followed by the G2 (60-68mm), and then the Quest 2, which features just three presets for IPD adjustment (58mm, 63mm, and 68mm) and might therefore not result in the best viewing experience for some wearers.
The Valve Index might be the heaviest of the three headsets, but it is arguably the most comfortable due to its excellent weight distribution. The G2 is no stranger to comfort either thanks to its lightweight design and generous cushioning. Both are suitable for extended sessions with little to complain about.
The Quest 2 is clearly in last place, requiring you to buy the Oculus Elite Strap for a more comfortable experience.
The Quest 2 is rightly the cheapest of the three headsets, given its limitations. Between the G2 and Index, it’s not quite as clear, though, despite the price difference.
As mentioned, the G2 has better clarity and resolution, while the Index has a larger, more immersive FOV, and superior tracking and controllers.
Each headset has its own pros and cons, and the better one is the one that more closely matches your preferences.
If you want to do more than just play flight simulators, the Valve Index is your best option. Its tracking and controllers really are a class apart, which provide a better experience for a wide range of games and apps. Its higher framerate really makes a noticeable difference too.
Depending on whether the field of view or image quality is more important to you, it can go either way when it comes to watching movies.
The Quest 2 is unique in the sense that it is a standalone VR headset and able to operate without a PC. You also have access to Quest 2 exclusive games.
Additionally, my aim is to be as transparent as possible, so you should know that I have made my recommendations based on thousands of owner reviews, and a combination of testing and firsthand experience.
Helen Krasner holds a PPL(A), with 15 years experience flying fixed-wing aircraft; a PPL(H), with 13 years experience flying helicopters; and a CPL(H), Helicopter Instructor Rating, with 12 years working as a helicopter instructor.
Helen is an accomplished aviation writer with 12 years of experience, having authored several books and published numerous articles while also serving as the Editor of the BWPA (British Women Pilots Association) newsletter, with her excellent work having been recognized with her nomination of the “Aviation Journalist of the Year” award.
Helen has won the “Dawn to Dusk” International Flying Competition, along with the best all-female competitors, three times with her copilot.